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Bistro blues 

I have never entered a restaurant and wanted to like it so much as when I first set foot inside Vivo. This small bistro is absolutely lovely. Rich colours, dark woods, and gilt-rimmed mirrors and picture frames give it an opulent look without losing the casual bistro charm. Plenty of natural light floods the dining room through the bank of windows on one side; elegant lighting sets the mood in the Francesca Tallone

We sit and peruse the menu, an eclectic mix of bistro fare with international influence.

We start with crostata ($6.95), a serving of toasted bread rounds and an olive spread. The spread is a little bland. A little seasoning, even salt and pepper, would make this spread tastier.

For entrees we’ve picked the curry chicken ($15.95) and pasta primavera ($12.95). The chicken dish has no discernible curry flavour and is fussily presented for a casual bistro. Maybe too much time was spent lining the edge of the plate with halved cherry tomatoes because the dish is cold. The pasta is not bad, cooked just nice; there are plenty of vegetables but the cream sauce is a little thick and gloopy. It’s a busy night and we forgo dessert until next time.

Giving Vivo time to age, I wait several weeks before a return visit. This time, we start with the artichoke dip ($6.95), which is plenty for two. It’s a delicious dip, but I fail to see why it would be called artichoke dip, as we are only able to locate the tiniest piece of artichoke in the bottom. If the artichokes have been pureed into the dip, then their delicate flavour has been lost and so there’s no point. Misnamed, but still yummy, and I think things may be looking up.

The arrival of the main courses dispels that notion. Stuffed pork loin ($15.95) is so dry it sits unfinished, and the few woody mushrooms that make up the stuffing serve no purpose. The roast potatoes are quite nicely done though, as are the side vegetables (green and yellow beans and grilled tomato). The lamb chops ($16.95) are fatty, thin and best unmentioned. Both meats come with fruit chutneys—both with that taste of fermentation, that funny tingling you get on your tongue when fruit chutneys and salsas sit around too long and start to go off.

There are only two kinds of desserts on the menu—cheesecakes ($6.95) and crepes ($6.95). Tonight we try the turtle cheesecake and the blueberry crepes. Both are disasters. The cheesecake is dry, way overcooked with a burnt taste on the crust, and gritty textured. Our server mentions that these cakes are bought from someone who bakes them and my advice, based on this sample, is to find another supplier or drop it entirely.

The crepes—described on the menu as fluffy—are thick rubbery discs rolled so tightly not a bit of filling is left inside, with a watery creme anglaise and a handful of cultivated blueberries. Disgusting, especially for the price. I’m not a fan of frozen products, but when the homemade offerings are this bad, I’d sooner have the ready-made stuff.

I want to like Vivo Bistro, I really do. It’s a beautiful restaurant in an area that deserves a great neighbourhood bistro. The service standards are high, with warm, welcoming staff who know their stuff, and the menu is varied and reasonably priced. But sadly, the kitchen’s execution fails to keep up.

Vivo Bistro2795 Windsor Street431-9477Daily 11:30am-4: 30pmSun-Wed 5-9:30pmThu-Sat 5-10:30pm

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